Do you remember being little and daydreaming about what would make your backyard THE backyard?
For me, it was a trampoline. If I could have just had a trampoline, I would have never been bored again.
That was before Pinterest and long before helicopter moms were commonplace. In the nineties, we went outside and played until we heard our parents call from the back porch.
These days, parents go above and beyond to add enrichment activities into their backyards to keep kids engaged and entertained. And I’m not mad about it.
Looking back, I should have aimed higher than my trampoline dreams.
Don’t like the water tables at Target? Go for something a little more rustic and DIY-friendly. You won’t have to worry about fading plastic and you can always repurpose it to a potting stand.
With a tub, a hose, and built-in storage for toys, your kiddos will be able to cool down and clean up all on their own after a balmy summer day in the backyard.
You won’t have to worry about fading plastic either, as you can sand and stain your wooden water station.
Water and sand table with trays
This project is on a smaller scale, but equally as fun. You can easily DIY the table support and purchase cheap plastic tubs to set inside.
Customize the number of tubs so you can fill them with water, sand, gravel, etc. This is a great DIY sensory activity from toddler to grade school age! You can also use PVC pipes to build your table/stand.
Short on space but have plenty of fence? Consider a DIY shelf that’s sturdy enough to hold a few tubs for water and toys.
You can also mount smaller shelves above it for your water and sand toys. This is a great option for tiny backyards or apartment decks.
Soda bottle waterfall
If your DIY skills are limited (true for many of us), never fear! This easy waterfall is just a few old soda bottles (2 liters), a pegboard, and some screws.
Mount the bottles in positions that will allow the water to cascade from one to the next, all the way down the board, and voila! Your child gets to splash in the water while taking part in an early physics lesson.
Kids and puppies are alike in many ways. They always have to use the potty at the most inopportune moment, they steal your food, they hog the bed, and they love to play in the mud.
So, if you want to provide them with the most amazing mud pie-making station, check out some of these projects!
Want to encourage imaginative play amongst the plants in your flowerbed or garden? Consider making a dinosaur garden where your little one’s prehistoric friends can frolic.
The setup is pretty simple. Buy some cheap plastic dinosaurs and let your child arrange them with rocks, sticks, fake trees, etc. right there in your garden.
You need a workstation for creating mud pie masterpieces, right? This is the ultimate DIY because you can thrift almost all of the pieces and throw them together in a way that works for you and your particular backyard.
Consider using an old kitchen or utility sink with old pots and pans that you can find at a yard sale or thrift shop.
Let your kids express themselves in the backyard. You get to save your living room from the mess and they get to dress up the landscaping with their masterpieces!
Need a reusable art station in your backyard? Grab some cheap plexiglass, wood, and screws from the hardware store to follow this DIY.
You can also add a shelf to hold the paint and brushes. When not in use, you can easily tuck this easel into a corner of the yard.
If you have an unused portion of the fence or wall, consider DIYing a chalkboard for an easy and aesthetically pleasing backyard art center.
You can customize the size, incorporate baskets, and even use it for homeschool lessons if you choose. Make sure your board material can stand up to moisture though.
I know, I know—Climbing is scary. However, would you rather them climb and swing on equipment designed to hold their weight or your end tables where your great aunt’s antique lamp rests?
Pallet climbing structure
For an easy DIY climbing wall, grab some pallets, a sander, and a nail gun. Feel a little uneasy about letting your little one climb?
The movement is actually essential for learning and helps build motor skills, problem-solving skills, and connections between sensory input and movement.
This might be a better option if you live in a country setting, or at least, the supplies are more readily available. All you need is a tree that’s recently felled.
Cut the trunk into smaller pieces, keeping the ends as straight and smooth as possible. When you’re done, arrange the stumps by digging and anchoring them in the ground.
You can place them in whatever positions/patterns you like, making stepping stones for your child to practice climbing, balancing, and jumping.
Into repurposing your old junk? If you have a few tires stacked up in your garage or back corner of your yard, take some beams, anchor them into the ground, and use them to construct a climbing tower.
This is a fairly simple DIY, and if you don’t mind the looks of a tire tower, it can be a great tool to teach motor skills, coordination, independence, and confidence.
Again, kids and puppies, right? No, but seriously, it’s good for your children to sink their fingers into the dirt. It’s great tactile play and leads to enhanced sensory development.
For an all-inclusive backyard play area, consider sectioning off part of the yard for digging. This doesn’t have to be just dirt/mud.
Incorporate other textures and materials such as round river rocks, mulch, and sand. Use gardening dividers to keep the sections separate, and toss in some dump trucks, shovels, and beach toys.
Breanna is a former therapist turned writer. She earned a master’s in psychology in 2015 but ultimately decided she would like to be more present for her family.
Currently flexing her writing skills as a stay-at-home mother of two toddlers (with another baby on the way), she enjoys writing in the parenting and home/DIY niches.
She also writes fiction and has been published in a handful of literary magazines and a fiction anthology. In her spare time, Breanna enjoys blogging, painting, running, and drinking an absurd amount of coffee.